Madam Speaker, I will be dividing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Red Deer.
I wish to address this House on the business of the budget which was presented yesterday. I want to deal particularly with one part of that budget. It has to do with the provisions for science and technology. The hon. Minister of Finance said that the general objective of federal spending in science and technology is to build a stronger science and technology capability in Canada.
There are two funding councils through which a lot of this money goes, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Both promote and assist primarily university research and graduate education. Their budget was reduced proportionately less than those in other areas because, as he said, that reflects the importance and priority placement of R and D for this government.
The same thing happened with the National Research Council. It too was reduced, but not in the same proportion as were certain other parts. The National Research Council will have to eliminate activities of a lower priority.
From the above it is pretty clear government has demonstrated that science and technology is considered to be a strategic asset of government.
Let me quote directly from the Minister of Finance's budget plan: "High deficits and debt lead to higher interest rates, higher taxes and reduced confidence, which dampen investment and growth. The financial requirements flowing from chronic deficits, when not matched by increases in private sector savings, increase Canada's dependence on foreign borrowing, the servic-
ing cost of which is a permanent drain on national income and future living standards. The constant financing of deficits also reduces the government's capacity to provide important public services and to make adequate investments in the area of strategic national importance, such as science and technology."
It should be clear to everyone that this budget, because it does not adequately deal with the fiscal problems of this government, will make it difficult to develop in precisely those areas upon which the future economic development of this country depends and which must take place if Canada is to compete in the global marketplace.
Concerns have also arisen with respect to the treatment of R and D expenditures on information technology generally, and in particular those incurred by financial institutions. I quote the minister again: "As an interim measure, all information technology R and D performed after budget day by financial institutions will be excluded from the definition of scientific research and experimental development pending the completion of the review of information technology R and D".
Is this specific act a discrimination against one of the major stakeholders in scientific and technological development? Or is it as Peter Cook stated yesterday in his article in the Globe and Mail : ``Fairness to the politician does not mean burden sharing. It means goring the fewest oxen.'' Since there is not a large number of financial institutions and the chartered banks are by far the fewest and the largest of those, only very few oxen will be gored by this regulation.
The question, however, is a larger one. Does this action discourage other innovators in the information technology field? That is particularly problematic in light of the Auditor General's observations that we must recognize the global economy is increasingly driven by knowledge based industries and that innovation is critical.
He goes on to detail some of the characteristics of an innovative country. He states among other things that first, innovation has become a crucial survival issue. It cannot be treated as an option. Second, innovation trends do not arise by themselves. It is generated and sustained through the efforts of people. Innovation is where the innovative spirit is. It cannot be legislated or brought about by edict. It comes from individuals and from creative and interactive communities and it thrives in an environment of encouragement and support.
Three, he says government needs to create an environment that is supportive of innovation. If not, innovators will not innovate or leave to go to places where there is support for innovation. Four, partners in an innovative society include all aspects of our communities, all governments, communities, individuals, corporations and families. Five, he says Canada has the potential to be particularly innovative as a society because of the cultural diversity of its people. Canada could become known as an innovative country.
The Auditor General also observed that within the science and technology department there is an absence of strong leadership: "The government does not have a clear idea of precisely what it is trying to achieve in science and technology".
In response to that observation of the Auditor General, here is what the Minister of Finance said in his budget plan:
Industry Canada is developing a federal science and technology strategy. The department is drafting a national vision of science and technology through external consultations, internal review as well as an independent assessment of the national advisory board on science and technology.
Industry Canada, in conjunction with other relevant departments, is also working to increase the relevance and economic impact of the government science and technology spending; a more businesslike approach is being adopted.
This is a total statement with regard to this matter. It is vague, yet it readily admits that knowledge is where the future lies. How much money would a private investor place in a vague and wishy-washy sense of direction like that?
In this case, as in any other pursuit, it is essential that there be a clear goal as to where one is going so that one may determine the costs and know when the goal has been reached. At the moment I am afraid there is much money and a lot of activity being thrown in a particular direction but little to show for it. When resources are scarce we cannot afford such lack of accountability and irresponsible expenditure of public funds.
There are some suggestions that I would make that might be of assistance in meeting the Auditor General's message. First, in this country there are insufficient links between science and technology policy on the one hand and economic indicators on the other. Do the government policymakers ask themselves what economic indicators are being directed toward science and technology?
Second, science and technology remains internalized. While it talks about being innovative, about being an important component of economic recovery, it seems to have no idea how to activate policy to become that component. The reason for that is because any review that has come out of the department of science and technology has not had its genesis or relationship with the finance department.
In many ways science and technology and Industry Canada are having an identity crisis. They know what they want to be, an engine of fiscal recovery, but they have no idea how to get there.
We hear much about creating stronger partnerships between government and universities, government and industry, industry and university. We have not heard a whisper about the relationship that is necessary to forge between academic scientists and economists.
Many who comprise and compose the structure of science and technology have moved from the ivory tower of the university to the ivory tower of government. Neither is a traditional place where market value means much to the daily workings of the respective institutions.
Protected from the real world and from having to generate revenues to support their work, their objectives are fuelled by the desire to maintain the status quo. Instead they choose to believe that the granting system is sacred and necessary, that generating revenues is not within the purview of science.
However, generating revenues is a principal element in becoming an engine that drives economic recovery. We are relying on science and technology to produce products, jobs and a niche for Canada in the global marketplace. When we are told that science and technology can do that we believe it because we want it to be so. However, we want it to be happening now.
Do we have to wait another 30 years since the last science and technology review took place when nothing happened? One year from now is too long. It is time to get out of ivory towers and do it now.
We need to have a different structure, a necessary new configuration; one that places more emphasis on each knowledge worker and less concentration and centralization of services, one that joins Newfoundland to British Columbia by an information highway capable of sharing ideas of co-operative creation, of production teams equipped with expertise not limited to institutions, sectors, regions or governments. That is innovation. That will assure Canada's future. That is what we must do and we must do it now.